Refugees’ transnational livelihoods and remittances: Syrian mobilities in the Middle East before and after 2011

Ann-Christin Zuntz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pursuing an ethnographic approach, this article explores how Syrians’ pre-war kinship-based networks have oriented livelihoods strategies for refugees in Jordan after 2011. Drawing on long-term fieldwork (2015–2017) in northern Jordan, I argue that seasonal migration was a livelihoods strategy for Syria’s rural poor long before 2011, serving as their old-age provision and contributing to rural development. Since 2011, conflict-induced displacement and border closures have reshaped Syrians’ transnational kinship-based networks: geographically, but also with regard to the diversification of sources of income and gendered responsibilities. In Jordan, Syrian refugees mobilize pre-war transnational ties to access jobs in agriculture and the humanitarian sector, and distribute their income through kinship-based cross-border networks. These ethnographic findings challenge a localized understanding of refugee livelihoods, demonstrating that the household economies of refugees, migrants, and those left behind, in Syria, Jordan, the Gulf countries, and now Europe, are intertwined. In closing, I provide recommendations about how a networked understanding of refugee livelihoods can inform the COVID-19 emergency response, and help create decent jobs for displaced people in the Global South.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfeab016
Pages (from-to)1400–1422
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2021


  • mobilities
  • transnational livelihoods
  • Syrians
  • Jordan
  • rural
  • labour migrations
  • displacement


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